Unfortunately there are thousands of cases in the UK of individuals not receiving their post. This may be due to a variety of reasons including the post being intercepted by somebody else. It appears that many people are not aware that opening or throwing away somebody else’s post is illegal in the UK, providing certain criteria are met.
Postal Services Act 2000
Under the Postal Services Act 2000:
“A person commits an offence if he, without reasonable excuse, intentionally delays or opens a postal packet in the course of its transmission by post, or intentionally opens a mail bag.”
“A person commits an offence if intending to act to a person’s detriment and without reasonable excuse, he opens a postal packet which he knows or reasonably suspects has been incorrectly delivered to him.”
This, in essence, means that if you deliberately intercept, throw away or open somebody else’s post you are likely to be breaking the law.
It can, however, be very difficult to prove that somebody is “intending to act to a person’s detriment” and therefore there are not many people convicted simply of opening somebody else’s post.
Often an individual who is intercepting or opening somebody else’s post will have to then act on it to show that they did indeed “intend to act to a person’s detriment”. This will often include the individual subsequently using the information they obtained from opening your mail e.g. opening somebody else’s mail, finding a credit card and then using it for themselves running up a debt on the credit card.
This would be a clear example in which opening the post would have shown an intention to act to a person’s detriment. In this example, any punishment would, of course, be on top of the more serious offence of theft and fraud in relation to the credit card itself.
However, sometimes people accidently open other’s post, and they should not face criminal punishment. For example, if somebody receives a lot of post and therefore opens it quickly, it is quite likely that they may open another’s post (which may have been incorrectly sent to them) without looking at who the letter is addressed to.
Clearly, in this situation it would be wrong to face criminal punishment for opening another’s post. But this highlights the difficulties faced by those who would attempt to prove someone’s intent to act to a person’s detriment.
Every day, highly confidential and personal information is sent by post and, with a large number of identity fraud crimes being enabled by stealing this information, it is in the interest of the public that it is a punishable offence to open another person’s post.
The Postal Services Act 2000 states that any person who commits this offence may be “liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both”.
Level 5 on the standard scale is a fine of £5,000.
If you believe that your post is being intercepted, you should contact a solicitor or the police.